23 October, 2014 / 27 Zilhaj, 1435

On his first day as the village imam, Mullah Nasruddin climbed his elevated seat, looked at the congregation and asked: “Do you know what I am about to tell you today?”

“No, we do not,” the worshippers replied.

“If you don't know, then I have nothing to tell you,” said Mullah Nasruddin. He folded his sermon. Put it back in his pocket and walked away.

The next Friday, he asked the same question. This time the worshippers knew not to say no.

“Yes, Haji Saheb, we do know,” they said.

“OK, then I do not need to tell you what you already know,” said Mullah Nasruddin and walked out of the mosque.

On the third Friday, Mullah Nasruddin repeated his question.

This time, the worshippers thought they had learned his trick. So some said, “Yes, we do know.” Others said, ”No, we do not.”

“In that case, those who know should tell those who do not,” he said and slipped out of the mosque.

Jozi, an infrequent visitor to Alif Laila Tavern, finished his story and went to bat.

Jozi is from Bahawalpur but now lives in Northern Virginia and like many of us, he too is a cab driver. He has a master’s degree in Urdu Literature, which could not get him a job in Pakistan. There were no jobs for him in Virginia either.

So he bought an old cab from the money he had saved by doing night shifts at a gas station and set up his “own transport business,” as he tells every new comer from home.

Every Ramazan, cab and limousine drivers from Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland gather at a large parking space near the tavern and play cricket.

They come around midnight, after traveh prayers. By then, the parking lot is almost empty. So they turn it into a cricket field. The bat and the wickets are real. But instead of a cricket ball, they wrap white plastic tape around a tennis ball and use it for bowling on the hard surface.

It is like a proper cricket tournament and is played every night for one whole month. The last match is played a night before the moon night.

Unused to all-night cricket, the local police department sends a patrol car to the parking lot for the first few nights. But when they see the players dispersing peacefully after the game, they stop coming after a few nights.

The tournament also attracts friends and supporters of the two teams. Some local night owls also stop briefly to watch the game, do not understand it and walk away.

Jozi is not a regular batsman, so he got caught while lifting a ball for six and returned to the pavilion.

Hafiz Saheb, the tavern’s unofficial priest, was waiting for him.

“Why do you make fun of the mullahs?” he asked.

“Hafiz Saheb, how long have you been here with us?” Jozi asked. “Fifteen years, and you still do not understand us.”

“I do. I understand you well. You always ridicule mullahs,” Hafiz Saheb said.

“The story I told you does not mock Mullah Nasruddin,” said Jozi. “Instead, it shows how smart he was. What he says is very logical.”

“And what’s that?” Hafiz Saheb asked.

“Don’t waste your wisdom on those who are ignorant, that’s the first point. And if you are saying something people already know, you are wasting your time. This is the second point. People should always share knowledge with each other, that’s the third point,” said Jozi.

“Besides, Mullah Nasruddin was a Sufi, not a mullah,” he added.

“What’s the difference?” Hafiz Saheb asked.

“There is a world of a difference, Hafiz Saheb, ” said Jozi. “The Sufis never killed a mullah but the mullahs often got them beheaded.”

Before Hafiz Saheb could reply, two teenagers – an Afghan and Pakistani – started arguing with each other.

“The Afghans, they are still learning how to play cricket,” said the Pakistani. “They learned cricket while living in Pakistan as refugees. They still have a long way to go.”

“Yes, that’s why they defeated Pakistan, right?” the Afghan countered. “Yes, we are new in cricket but we can teach you a thing or two.”

“Defeated us, in 2010 Asian Games? That was our C team, not even B,” said the Pakistani. “Don’t you remember, India, Pakistani and Sri Lanka did not send their teams to the games due to prior engagements?”

Hafiz Saheb got up and walked up to the two teenagers.

“Stop fighting. We are not here to fight. Don’t you remember, you are both Muslims and this is Ramazan,” he said.

The two moved away from each other and said they were doing so because an alim (a religious scholar) had asked them to do so. This obviously pleased Hafiz Saheb.

“Good,” said Jozi, “if you fight, the police will stop this tournament and we will never play here again.”

This also had some impact on the two. They shook hands and embraced each other as the spectators clapped.

Now Jozi also felt the need to make peace with Hafiz Saheb.

“Hafiz Saheb, did you see the moon two days ago? It was so big and beautiful,” he said.

“Yes, it was,” said Hafiz Saheb, “and it had a strange effect on me. I could not sleep all night.”

“It happens, it happens,” Jozi said, “and it reminded me of the moon I used to see back in my village. It looked so beautiful behind the sand dunes.”

“How we ran away from that land and now everything about that place seems so beautiful. We miss it all the time,” said Hafiz Saheb as others agreed with him.


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Anwar Iqbal is a correspondent for Dawn, based in Washington, DC.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments (16) Closed


Ahmed
Jul 27, 2013 06:12pm

You are a gifted writer, my friend.

zahid Ali
Jul 27, 2013 06:54pm

Nice story Habibi.We all miss our home land.We are like gypsies moving from place to p.lace to find our selves.Have a nice day

Parvez
Jul 27, 2013 11:10pm

Every person has to bear the burden of their own decissions, but once a decission is made then keeping one leg in one boat an the other in another boat.......is even worse.

Mirza Malang
Jul 27, 2013 11:41pm

So true. Brought tears to my eyes. You can leave your home but your home will never leave you. I miss night cricket too.

Babar
Jul 28, 2013 05:11am

These expat nostalgia stories are getting annoying.

S
Jul 28, 2013 10:15am

What garbage story was this?

Sohail Parwaz
Jul 28, 2013 10:06pm

strong textAnwar! My brother. Its really touching. That's your beauty to script an ordinary event with such finish that it touches one's heart. God bless you.

Samir Gupta
Jul 29, 2013 12:01am

Wow!! Where do you get your inspiration from?

asma
Jul 29, 2013 12:06am

@S: Seems like you got the point buddy!

asma
Jul 29, 2013 12:10am

@Babar: Expats survive their hard life with this nostalgia..That keeps them loving those times and that land..These are important sensitive glimpses that are not present among writer of today ..Ever read Mustansar Hussain Tarrar?

Fahim Kidwai
Jul 29, 2013 12:25am

nice coverage of the emotions of our brothers abroad and missing the Ramzan at home

maryam bial
Jul 29, 2013 12:13pm

loved it..!!

Tuxedos
Jul 29, 2013 12:51pm

Yep....Sooo....? WHAT .....

Harit
Jul 29, 2013 05:00pm

@Parvez: ... very sensible and rational advice, my friend, in day-to-day living. But sometimes, an emigre heart seems to develop a mind of its own and will not be reigned in...

Harit
Jul 29, 2013 05:13pm

@Parvez: A very rational suggestion, my friend. But an emigre heart sometimes will not be reigned in....

Fauzan
Jul 30, 2013 09:18am

I just started reading this series of blogs and they have really grown on me. I love the name alif laila tavern! Perhaps it's because i used to live in NOVA myself and can almost picture the tavern and the setting. I sure do miss it. Keep the stories coming brother.